I have heard Christian missionaries claim that although Jews don’t realize it, at the seder we single out the middle matza because it represents the Messiah (the three matzot together representing the Trinity), we break the middle matza because it signifies his death by crucifixion, and we then hide the part of the middle matza (called the afikoman) to signify his burial. Finally we “resurrect” the middle matza, just as Jesus is said to have rose from the grave. What is the truth of this claim?
The missionaries’ premise, which rests on an analogy between the use of the three matzot and the Trinity doctrine, is based on historical and theological ignorance. There are intrinsic flaws in their analogy, which dispel the illusion they wish to portray. Jesus is alleged to be the ultimate paschal lamb. The missionaries maintain that the afikoman (one part of the broken middle matza) was instituted by early Jewish Christians to commemorate that claim through a unique set of symbolisms which include the three matzot of the rabbinic seder. However, a careful scrutiny of the missionaries’ claim shows that there is no analogy between the afikoman and Jesus. It is the whole middle matzah that the missionaries claim symbolizes Jesus. They then allege that the afikoman, half of the matzah, is hidden to signify his burial and that in essence we “resurrect” the afikoman, just as, according to their claim, Jesus rose from the grave.
The missionary claim is unequivocally false. The afikoman refers, not to the whole middle matzah, but to one portion of it, after it has been divided in two. Without the two pieces of the middle matzah being visibly reunited and then once more becoming part of the “unity,” there can be no analogy with Christian trinitarian and messianic claims concerning Jesus. Yet, once removed from the stack of three matzot, the piece set aside for the afikoman never returns neither to the “unity” nor to the other part of the middle matzah. Thus, the middle part of the “unity” that the missionaries emphasize as symbolically significant is never restored to its full complement. Only part of it is retrieved at the conclusion of the seder. This retrieved piece cannot represent the allegedly wholly risen Jesus. The claim that the afikoman, a portion of the middle matzah, symbolizes Jesus as the paschal lamb contradicts the Gospel of John. John declares that the body of Jesus, corresponding to the missionaries’ middle matzah, remained unbroken. John places great emphasis on the allegation that Jesus’ bones were not broken so that he could fulfill the commandment that not one bone of the paschal lamb should be broken (John 19:36, cf. Exodus 12:46).19 In addition, the New Testament claims that Jesus rose bodily from the tomb (Luke 24:39, John 20:27). Thus, this broken middle matzah could not symbolize Jesus as the paschal lamb. For such an analogy to occur, the complete matzah would have to remain unbroken.
According to the missionary explanation, the matzah that is broken in half, wrapped, and put aside until the end of the seder represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Hence, it is alleged, the broken matzah reintroduced into the seder service is called aphikomen, “the coming one.” This notion, in actuality, symbolically negates the claim that Jesus underwent a complete bodily resurrection. The afikoman is only a portion of the broken matzah; it is the whole middle matzah that would have to symbolize the risen Jesus. Furthermore, the connection of the word afikoman with the reintroduced piece of matzah is first used in the medieval period. In addition, the use of three matzot instead of two also dates to a late period many hundreds of years after the death of Jesus. There is no way the Christian missionary explanation can have any truth to it.